Which English to use?

I’m British, and tend to use British English when writing. For my books I’ve generally stuck to British English, except where the American English version is also acceptable (such as –ise/-ize. Both are, technically, acceptable in British English, but American English prefers –ize).

It’s always a concern that different spellings may be viewed as typos by some readers, though, which may negatively influence their view of the book (resulting in negative reviews).

This is one of the problems with eBooks which are available internationally. Short of publishing a multiple versions where the version of English is stated in the title (which I have no intention of doing, if only because it would look odd), I’m not sure there’s any way around the problem. It’s going to read as wrong to someone.

I’m becoming inclined towards sticking strictly to British English from now on (barring any more from the first person perspective of an American character, such as in The Sin of Hope), and not bother thinking about it any further.


And this is only the spelling, without considering the other aspects of language I’ve been influenced by over the years. There’re also differences in sentences structure, and different words used in different countries, or words having different meanings in different countries (examples: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_words_having_different_meanings_in_British_and_American_English:_A%E2%80%93L). But spelling is the most obvious difference. And I’ve got a headache.


Free Market Press

There must be a more efficient way for politicians to communicate with the electorate than through the media. Yet how many of us even know if our representative has a web presence. I’ll admit I don’t even know who my MP is (Member of Parliament; being British I’ll be using British terms here, although the general situation isn’t limited).

But if politicians want to communicate with the electorate, the only real option they have is via the mass media. And what happens if the media don’t like the message the politicians want to send? The coverage could easily be skewed against them, or, possibly worse still, they may not get covered (or not beyond the initial message).

Because, ultimately, the media get to control the delivery of the message, and to direct the general political discourse. (Obviously referring to the media as a single block is simplistic, but unless one element of the media takes a position it may not matter if politicians do.)

So how do they determine which are the important stories? By which they believe will gain them the biggest share of the audience, so the more sensational, the better. We don’t really have a free press so much as a free market press (in terms of mass media, since a lot of online media which has the potential for greater freedom is still in its infancy, and reaching the general public on a large scale is still primarily the domain of the print and broadcast media). They survive on their ratings (or on advertising revenue linked to ratings) and so go with the stories they believe the public would pay more attention to.

The political discourse is therefore directed by the media’s view of what will attract the most attention of the lowest common denominator, which they may even convince some of the public is what they should be interested in. (How long did they drag out the expenses scandal? Sure, there were offensive actions by some politicians, but by then end I’d almost started to feel sorry for some of them simply because they were obviously being victimised as a means to generate sales for the media.)

Given this climate, how much influence can the media really exert over political decision? Are we actually being governed by the media? Or, rather, by their view of what the shortest of attention spans of the lowest common denominator will focus on. So we basically live in a mediacracy.

That isn’t to say the media are a cohesive unit that won’t turn on each other. So does this mean we could use them as a kind of democracy, spending money or attention on the media which comes closest to our views (maybe more of a choice than that we get between politicians)? Not really, since who’d deal with all the boring decisions they don’t consider newsworthy.

So we’re stuck waiting for society to catch up with the evolving technologies, which could change the political landscape, removing most of these problems. And probably replacing them with new problems, or, more likely, new versions of the same old problems.

Crossover Events

(I’m mainly talking comics here)

I like crossovers. I’ve even got plans for a crossover involving characters from some of my books, although that’s a fair way off.

I also (in theory) enjoy crossovers in comics, although many recent ones have been disappointing. I’m not talking about the small crossovers, where a character appears in another characters’ comic, but the Crossover EVENT comics.

I find them more successful where they’re relatively contained, such as some of the X-Men Events of recent years (Messiah Complex, Utopia, X-Nation, Second Coming) where the story runs between regular issues of the comics.

Where I find them less successful is when there’s a mini-series, with regular series having side-stories which are allegedly not needed to enjoy the main story (examples include Secret Invasion, Siege, Fear Itself). Even those I enjoy feel a bit rushed in the mini-series, since they need to allow space for the associated series to fill out the story. It feels like you’re only getting the bare bones of the story, which can affect the pacing.

Sometimes it can’t really be helped. Overall I liked the idea of Secret Invasion, and the flashbacks in other series showing how the plot occurred behind the scenes for the past few years worked for me. But they would have slowed the main series down too much. Could it still have worked with a meatier story in the main mini-series? I think so. The background stuff just enhanced the overall story.

A subcategory of events is the alternate world stuff (Age of Apocolypse, House of M, Flashpoint, Age of X). While I enjoy some alternate world stories, Events often leave me cold. No matter how much they supposedly affect the regular continuity, they never really feel like they matter that much. (And since Flashpoint was simply a story rationale for rebooting the DC Universe, which included CANCELLING SECRET SIX, it in my view wallows at the nadir of such events.)

Okay, most Events are there mainly to serve a marketing purpose, trying to get readers of one comic hooked on others. So should they get judged on different criteria? Not really. They don’t usually get priced any cheaper, and the fact that some Events are enjoyable means that there’s nothing inherently bad about the type of story.

They usually seem to fall apart when there’re a number of creators working on parts of the main story, and lack of communication and organization cause problems. Final Crisis on its own felt fairly self-contained if memory serves, as long as you ignored the events in some of the lead up titles which contradicted elements of the set-up (but since I didn’t read all of those I found the main series relatively enjoyable).

The main thrill of a crossover is characters crossing over into each other’s stories, though, and having them interact. Which isn’t to say that should be the focus, since a weak story just to allow two characters to interact will leave the encounter unsatisfactory. Ideally the story should have a reason for all the characters to be involved, and all should have something to do other than just interacting.

With a firm control over the story, though, and using only characters who have valid reasons to be involved, crossovers can be fun, and I really want to do one.

Why I Hate Research

It’s not just laziness. Honest.

Unless you’re already an expert, someone out there will know more about a subject than you. And when you make a mistake, they’ll be the one to catch it and feel so incensed by your ignorance that they need to point it out to the world.

Unless you’re making up absolutely everything, this is always a danger, so a degree of research, even just on the location you’ve set it, is probably a good idea.

This is one reason I prefer fantasy. You can make stuff up. There’s still a fair scope where you can get caught out, such as knowing how to handle a horse, but at worst you can always say that the animal called a horse in this setting is slightly different from a real world horse. A fantasy world can be as much your creation as you want it to be, and as long as you maintain consistency, nobody can justifiably claim that anything in it is wrong.

Consistency is the main problem in establishing a kind of realism to the setting, and can easily take as much time as research would for a more mundane story. You may need to establish your own geography, political climate, history, or magic system, and it’s easier to do before you begin than as you’re writing.

And you don’t need to worry about your source being accurate. You only need to worry about getting the story right.

And since research primarily (the way I use it) gets you details that help sell the reality of the fiction, I’d rather focus on getting the story right. It just seems a more productive use of my time.